Eight-Line Gambling Lounge Operator Sues SAPD, City After Raids

South Carolina businessman Jimmy Martin received a certificate of occupancy from the city of San Antonio for an eight-line gambling parlor on the northeast side in February 2020.

The following month, San Antonio police raided the business known as Silver Bell at 4133 Naco Perrin Blvd. after deeming it an illegal gambling establishment.

It was raided a second time a year later and again in January before Martin was forced to close for economic reasons. There were 61 eight-line “amusement machines” – essentially slot machines.

He and his companies responded last week by suing the city, the San Antonio Police Department and two of its deputy detectives, and the state of Texas. The case highlights a gray area in Texas law, which has drawn a distinction between illegal “gambling” operations and legal “entertainment” operations. The difference comes down to how players are rewarded.

Martin’s costume isn’t just about the Silver Bell. It also has about 175 machines that had been deployed in four other eight-liner salons — run by other operators — around San Antonio and one in Universal City. The four San Antonio sites were raided a total of seven times, resulting in their closure or the loss of their leases.

Police confiscated some machines and damaged or destroyed others, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages, he alleges.

Martin also faces criminal charges for promoting gambling and possession of gambling paraphernalia. Both are Class A misdemeanors, with a jail term of up to one year and a maximum fine of $4,000. for each count.

Gambling?

In his lawsuit, Martin disputes that the eight-line arcades are illegal gambling establishments. He wants a district court in the state of San Antonio to “prevent further harassment and injury” from the defendants.

“As far as we can tell, Mr. Martin follows all state laws and municipal ordinances to ensure that his eight-line amusement machines are not illegal gambling devices,” said one of his lawyers in San Antonio, Joseph L. Korbel. “But the locations with his eight stunt doubles are still being raided repeatedly by the San Antonio Police Department. Mr. Martin’s trial aims to put an end to these raids.

City Attorney Andrew Segovia said the city did not receive a trial but defended the city and the SAPD. The city’s Department of Developmental Services issues a certificate of occupancy based on the condition of the building at the time; the certificate does not regulate future operations, he said.

“In short, Mr. Martin’s Certificate of Occupancy is not a license to run a gambling operation,” Segovia said in an emailed statement. “SAPD investigated the site and operations after complaints were received about a potential illegal gambling operation.”

Martin’s lawsuit comes two months after Fort Worth’s 2nd Court of Appeals ruled that the eight-line machines “are lotteries and are therefore unconstitutional machines.”

The Texas Civil Justice League, which promotes civil and tort justice reform, wrote on its website last month that if the Texas Supreme Court upholds the ruling, voters will have to approve a constitutional amendment to allow eight stunt doubles, as they did it for the state lottery. and charity raffles and bingo.

“The prospects of doing so soon appear dim at best,” the organization said.

Other Operators

In his lawsuit, Martin says criminal charges were dismissed against two other San Antonio eight-line lounge operators. One of the charges was dropped last month due to the disappearance of a witness, the court’s website says.

Martin is represented by the same criminal lawyer as the other two operators. The attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

“To date, the SAPD has seized and destroyed plaintiffs’ property in 10 raids,” Martin states in his lawsuit. “But each subsequent raid is based on the same set of circumstances that led to the dismissal of earlier lawsuits involving plaintiffs’ amusement machines.”

The first raid took place in 2016 and the 10th in January, according to Martin’s lawsuit.

He accuses the police of first disabling the surveillance cameras in the living rooms, then “unlawfully ripping out and cutting the electrical connections” and removing parts to disable the machines.

Police also used a Jaws of Life on ATMs so they could open containers of cash with a crowbar, Martin alleges. They did so despite employees with keys offering to open the ATMs, he said.

Martin estimated that it will cost over $300,000 to repair the eight liners.

The Texas Penal Code limits what can be awarded to players by amusement machines. Players may receive non-monetary prizes, toys or novelties, or representation of value redeemable for such items.

In his lawsuit, Martin says his machines never reward players with cash, gift cards, future free games, or any other form of reward that could be considered currency. Players are given “bulk silver or silver trinkets,” with a wholesale value no greater than $5 to comply with state code, he says.

Martin’s claims in his lawsuit relate to interference with contract and the taking of private property.

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